Benefits of Using Controlled Language
Implementing controlled language is not a trivial matter and companies need to be thoughtful, proactive, and prepared for the long term when they transition to controlled language. This type of initiative is not a one-off activity, but something that the company needs to be prepared to manage for years to come.
Having said that, controlled language presents some significant benefits to companies that implement it well:
Improved consistency and reuse. When used in conjunction with structured authoring (e.g., XML) and component-based content management, controlled language can help you maximize consistency and reuse.
Better terminology management. Terminology management is one of the most critical, and most difficult, processes to implement. Controlled language specifications can be a key component to terminology management by providing an objective starting point for managing terminology, particularly across disciplines and departments.
Improved quality control. Editors play a critical role in successful content management and controlled language initiatives. They are not only the style and terminology arbiters, they must also make sure that the content is organized and flows well, even when it is created by multiple authors writing small chunks of content. By using the tools available for the tedious tasks of checking compliance with the specification, editors can use their time on higher value activities, such as improving the internationalization, organization, and intelligence of the content, while still improving quality and consistency. Improved efficiency. Tools that help you automate compliance checking and terminology management can improve efficiency by freeing up editors to do higher value tasks. With these tools, even inexperienced authors can check their own work and make improvements before sending it to the editors.
Improved quantitative metrics. Several tools exist that enable you to track compliance to a controlled language specification like ASD-STE100. These tools facilitate benchmarking “before” and “after” content, for example.
Reduced localization costs. Just by limiting vocabulary and reducing word count, companies can save 20% or more on their localization costs.
Currently, the most popular controlled language specification is Simplified Technical English™ (ASD-STE100). This specification (and others like it) limits the vocabulary allowed in user documentation to approximately 8,000 words (base dictionary, plus a company’s Technical Names and Technical Verbs). By limiting vocabulary and grammar, the specification reduces the ambiguity and complexity of the content, making it easier for non-native speakers to comprehend and for localization companies to translate.
As Principal of Comgenesis, LLC, Katherine (Kit) Brown-Hoekstra provides consulting and training to her clients on a variety of topics, including localization, content strategy, and content management. Kit is an STC Fellow and STC international society VP, an experienced professional, and a small business owner with over 23 years of experience in technical communication, much of it working with localization teams (sometimes on the client side and sometimes on the vendor side). She regularly speaks at conferences worldwide, gives webinars for Localization Institute, has coauthored a book on managing virtual teams, and contributes frequently to several industry publications.
NOTE: The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of GALA.